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Evil by Design: Interaction design to lead us into temptation by Chris Nodder

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Sloth

We excuse our sloth under the pretext of difficulty.

Quintilian

These days, the word sloth describes laziness, but laziness is the outcome rather than the source of sloth. Sloth is actually avoidance of work or a “don’t care” feeling. In earlier times, when the work being avoided was God’s work, this was seen as a major sin.

Thinking of sloth as avoiding work or not caring about outcomes gives us a useful perspective; namely that people are not motivated to do more than the absolute minimum work to achieve their online aims. You could call this “lazy,” but that isn’t necessarily true. Instead, customers demand easy-to-use sites and software. We have been trained to look for cues that help us move forward in our tasks with the minimum of effort, and we’ll often abandon sites that make us work too hard.

It doesn’t take much additional design work to create an interface where the path that requires the minimum of user effort is the one that is most profitable for the developer.

Desire lines: From A to B with as few barriers as possible

You see desire lines in everyday life. Look at the landscaping around a university campus or in the parking lot of a shopping mall. If the landscaping happens to form a barrier between individuals and their destination, they will jump over it or forge a way through it.

This section of Richmond Park in London has five “official” paths. Numerous desire lines provide faster access between features. (image © 2012 Bluesky, DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, ...

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